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Seminar student brings ministry to Providence patients

August 08, 2008
Seminary student Matthew Schiffelbein may be majoring in theology at Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Ill., but thanks to Providence Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., he's learning how to apply life's lessons to his ministry this summer. A native of Topeka, Kan., Schiffelbein is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan. and recently was ordained a deacon. He anticipates graduating from the seminary in May 2009 and returning to the area to serve as a priest. But he's spent the summer working with the Spiritual Care department at Providence and serving at St. Patrick's Parish. Schiffelbein, who was diagnosed with macular degeneration in the fourth grade and is legally blind, says he has found his experience at the hospital a lesson in humility. "I visit with the patients several hours each week, talking and praying with them," Schiffelbein says. "I have been surprised by the wide range of responses people have to illness, and I have had to recognize that I am not here to fix their problems, but to listen to their concerns and support them in their time of need. Schiffelbein finds patients also respond well to his own health concerns. "I think being blind gives me a greater sense of compassion for others, but it also gives patients hope. They see that I have found faith and meaning in my struggle, and they are inspired to find a way to overcome their limitations to find meaning and purpose in life's challenges. That kind of witness is very powerful." In addition to studying at the seminary, Schiffelbein has a master's in music in the saxophone from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan. He has put those skills to good use at Providence too, playing at the recent re-dedication of the hospital's healing waters fountain. He is a 1997 graduate of Seaman High School, Topeka, Kan., and has played the saxophone since the fifth grade. "Matthew has been an outstanding addition to our spiritual care staff at Providence, says George Noonan, vice president of Mission Integration for the hospital. He brings a unique perspective to his ministry, one I believe our patients appreciate. We have been fortunate to have him with us these past few months." "My experience at Providence has been terrific, Schiffelbein adds. I have been very impressed with the staff and how much they care. As I talk with patients, they notice that the Providence staff takes its healing mission to heart, and that's important when you are facing a serious health concern, as many of the patients I have talked with are."